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Brown-bag breakfasts feed the body and spirit in Lima, Peru

posted in: Ministry, Peru
Three sisters hand out brown bag  breakfast in Magdalena del Mar, Lima, Peru.

Sisters prepare meals for migrants in Magdalena del Mar

More than five million men, women and children from Venezuela have fled to neighboring countries in South and Central America since 2014. In an ongoing political, socio-economic crisis, Venezuela is experiencing hyperinflation, out of control unemployment, escalating starvation, prevalent violence, increased abortions—illegal in the country—and related maternal deaths, and legions of hungry and desperate citizens who are emigrating in the hopes of making a better life.

Given the influx of Venezuelans into Lima, Peru, Holy Cross Sisters Mary Josephine Delany, Lilma Calsin Collazos and Esperanza (Sullca Clemente) responded by drawing on the messages of the Congregation’s Corporate Stand on Migration and Pope Francis’ encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, which calls for more human fraternity and solidarity. Their reflections compelled them to take action to help the droves of refugees in their city.

Helping refugees in Lima

“We felt we needed to do something for these families, especially for the children and women, as some are pregnant,” said Sister Mary Josephine.

The three sisters cleared their dining room table, bought groceries and supplies, and began assembling brown-bag breakfasts to hand out on the street. Each brown bag contains a fried egg or fresh cheese sandwich, another sandwich of pressed ham, two bottles of oatmeal made with milk, and fresh fruit. Weekly since December, the sisters have walked the streets of Lima pushing two carts filled with 50 bagged breakfasts.

Sisters Mary Josephine, Lilma and Esperanza are focusing efforts on their small municipality of Magdalena del Mar. A large central market that encompasses a full square block anchors the municipality. Housed in an expansive warehouse, the market consists of dozens of individual stalls where people sell fresh vegetables, fruits, meats and a variety of other goods.

Sister delivers brown bag breakfasts to family in Lima, Peru.

On any given day, there can be as many as 60 families begging in the streets around the market. Sometimes, a woman may have a little candy to sell to earn money, while men offer to carry groceries and packages for shoppers, hoping to earn a tip. The people on the streets are at constant risk for contracting COVID-19 and face numerous other dangers.

Help from new Congregation emergency fund

To help them continue this ministry, the sisters appealed to—and were granted funding from—the Congregation’s new St. André Bessette Emergency Relief Fund, which will allow them to reach approximately 1,500 people over the course of six months.

Helping the sisters touch lives and make a difference, the relief fund was created from 30 percent of budgeted 2021 funding from the donor-supported Ministry With the Poor Fund and is designated for emergency requests that aim to ease the suffering felt by many during the difficult days brought on by the global pandemic. The pandemic, in addition to natural disasters and the impacts of climate change, has caused economic pain and disrupted the lives of many who experience a lack of food, shelter, clothing, medicines and other essentials necessary for survival.

Sisters of the Holy Cross around the world seek to do their best to respond where they can to these needs with available resources. The new emergency funding, made possible because of donors’ faithful support to the Ministry With the Poor fund, helps sisters take action to address the most urgent needs where they minister. 

To join the sisters in their outreach, consider a donation to the Ministry With the Poor Fund, which enables the sisters to respond to the needs before us.